Why Crosby is keeping it local this Christmas
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:24 28 November 2017
This Christmas and beyond, keep things local with independent businesses in Crosby. Rebekka O'Grady chats to those making things happen.
For the staff and volunteers at Plaza Community Cinema, what is most important to them is exactly what’s in their name, community. The art deco cinema has been a landmark in the town since 1939 and the fact it is still standing is down to the people of Crosby and their passion to keep the facility running.
‘We celebrated our 20th anniversary in July,’ said cinema manager, Martin Fol. ‘Our chair of trustees, Jan Dunn said that what we have achieved in that time is just amazing. She never dreamt she would see the Plaza the way that it is today. People say the nicest things about it and it has a real sense of community which is down to the movers and shakers who get things done.’
The Plaza Cinema opened on September 2 1939, offering film programmes and for many years, live variety entertainment. The cinema was a real piece of the community until 1996, when the owners decided to close the doors for good and sell the site for redevelopment into an office block.
Local people were outraged and a campaign was created to halt the project and to form the Plaza Community Cinema Trust which eventually resulted in the proposal being withdrawn.
Thanks to the community’s dedication, in July 1997 it was reopened, with no financial capital to speak of but a wealth of volunteer support. ‘Our first film to be shown was Jurassic Park. The trust wrote to our now patron, Sir Sidney Samuelson to say we would like to screen the film, and he then spoke to Sir Richard Attenborough who spoke to Steven Spielberg and they gave us the film. That was the real catalyst that took us forward,’ Martin said.
Today, the Plaza goes from strength to strength thanks to its 80 staff – 70 whom are volunteers ranging from age 14 to 70 – and has screenings that range from commercial, limited release, foreign language and cult film. There’s also family screenings on a Saturday morning, disability and autism screenings once a month and dementia friendly screenings.
This Christmas, the Plaza will screen It’s a Wonderful Life and cinemagoers can enjoy a mince pie and mulled wine, along with a Christmas jumper competition, raffle and Pathé News. There will also be a screening of Home Alone in collaboration with St Joseph’s Hospice, and tickets for the Christmas Eve film, Elf, sold out in four hours.
‘There’s always something going on. We have a social club which has been running for over 15 years where you can play bingo, have a cup of tea and a biscuit and watch a film. It’s a great way for people to get to know each other, or those who are lonely can socialise for a few hours,’ said Martin, who started at the cinema as a volunteer, rising from an usher to become manager in 2011.
‘We are different to other cinemas. The Plaza is special. It’s an affordable cinema for everyone. Adult tickets are £4.90 and concessions £3.90. It’s funny, as when I was little I can remember coming here but I was never mad on it. Now I am so passionate about it, I can talk for hours about the cinema and its history.’
It’s that history that is so important for many people who come here and those who volunteer, and despite being brought into the 21st century, there are many original features that still remain or have been restored to mimic its roots.
‘The curtain is a replica of how it looked in 1939, we got it custom made in Halifax,’ Martin added. ‘Looking back at old photographs, we could see there was lighting around hieroglyphics that were detailed across the coving on the cinema ceiling.
‘The original hieroglyphics were covered up and not in great condition so we had them redone and some LED lights installed.
‘The orchestra pit was installed thanks to funding and there are two organ chambers. At some point it would be great to reinstall a Compton organ, which is what would have been there.’
The circle upstairs still has the original seats from 1939, which have been refurbished with Orient Express style material to keep with the theme, and the original flooring in the foyer was unveiled and restored a few months ago. And the attention to detail can even be seen in the toilets, which are decorated in beautiful art deco tiles, mirrors and lights.
‘We had a film made for the anniversary that looked back over the 20 year history since it became a community cinema. When you watch it, it really empowers you and it’s quite emotional to see what we have done in that time. We have had some dark days of course but it’s all about looking forward to the future now.’
Gift of giving
If you’re looking for an unusual gift to give this Christmas, then look no further than Roxiie’s Treasures. The most popular item sold by the jewellery, gift and home decor business, which is run by 24-year-old Rachel Gilbertson, is handmade cushions of the town’s most famous landmark, Anthony Gormley’s Iron Men.
‘I used to have a shop on College Road and I started to sell some cushions my mum was making from left-over fabric she had at home. They became quite popular and one day a customer suggested why not create some with the iron men on it,’ explained Rachel, who set up her business when she was 19.
Her mum Lynn then came up with an appliqué style design of the Crosby Beach artworks were individually stitched onto each cushion, priced £25. ‘It just took off from there. I now have nine different designs. They have been so popular and I haven’t seen them anywhere else,’ said Lynn, who also creates iron men bunting from the leftover cushion fabric. ‘The iron men cushions have been sent all over the world, from Australia and the United States to across Europe and the British Virgin Islands. It tends to be people who have got a connection to Liverpool, or they are presents for family members who have moved abroad.’
One cushion has even been bought by Paul McCartney’s step-mother Angie, who purchased one of Lynn’s other designs, a Liverbird, for her home in Los Angeles. ‘She sent a photo of it next to a Beatles cushion and with guitars hanging in the background. We just need Paul to buy one now!’
Rachel now operates her business online from home as sadly overheads were proving too costly for the small business; however there is still a small high street presence with the cushions available to buy at Pitchfork News on College Road. Today, alongside continuing to run Roxiie’s Treasures the young entrepreneur has her sights set on helping other start ups – using her past experience and knowledge of starting a business from scratch.
‘My business will be five-years-old next year and there are so many things I know now that I had no idea about when I was starting out – there’s so much help out there people don’t know about. It would be great to be able to champion other small businesses and pass on my experience through a blog.’ www.roxiiestreasures.co.uk
Taste of Crosby
Coastal walks and hedgerows are the inspiration behind the gin crafted by the husband and wife duo that forms The Crosby Elixir Co. Jen and Greig Peterson wanted their first tipple, handmade in a former home office in their garden repurposed into a distillery, to reflect their hometown of Crosby and what it means to them.
‘We’re not picking botanicals from around the area, but rather using our surroundings as an influence on flavour,’ explained Greig, who describes the flavour as earthy and fresh. It’s created in small batches of 20 into terracotta bottles which have been hand finished and fired in Stoke-on-Trent. ‘There are ten botanicals within it, and I think it has a peppery, floral taste – similar to rocket, really fresh. We recommend serving it with blackberries and rosemary.’
The couple first had the idea of making their own gin after they opened their own bar in 2016 in Liverpool City Centre, Hard Times and Misery. The intimate venue on Maryland Street serves cask and keg beer, as well as a huge range of gin.
‘We set up the bar as we wanted to create somewhere to go that we really liked, and the gin was just a natural progression after that – to create something we would enjoy drinking while there. Hard Times was a great place to use as a launch pad for the gin as we could do blind tastings on people and see what the reception was like, and then be confident we had something good before it hit the market this summer. Now we sell out batches before we have even made them so there’s a waiting list.’
If you haven’t managed to have a taste of the gin, which also retails online at £38, then this Christmas is your perfect opportunity as Greig and Jen will be launching a pop-up bar in December on Moor Lane, before closing on New Year’s Eve. However, the couple do have a lease option on the venue for the next five years, so if the testing of the waters goes well over the festive period, they may stay for good.
‘It’s got to grow organically as it’s just the two of us, but if the demand is there then we will continue to make more. We plan on branching out of the core gin and going into other spirits at some point, and this summer we also created our first seasonal gin named after our daughter, Aggie’s Strawberry Fields, and we plan on releasing a gin in spring 2018 named after our son, Rex’s Liquorice Allsorts.’
Coffee is a staple part of most people’s day – some can’t even function without it. So instead of reaching for that jar of shop bought granules in the cupboard, why not make your caffeine fix a local one? Thanks to Crosby Coffee, an independent coffee roaster, you can pick up freshly roasted beans that have been imported from all over the world.
Founded by Jack Foster in 2013, what was a hobby has been transformed into an award-winning business operating out of Bridge Road Industrial Estate, which is soon to expand yet again into a larger coffee shop and adjoining roastery on Crosby’s Oxford Road in late November.
‘It all started while I was a self-employed hospitality manager. I used to work at events all over the country, from Wimbledon and Ascot to the Grand National. While I was travelling, I started to take notice of different coffee shops and I got hooked on learning more about it,’ said Jack, who then began experimenting from his mum’s living room, using tiny American style roasters to create coffee for himself and family and friends.
‘Word got out and I started to generate interest from local businesses and soon couldn’t keep up with demand so for the past three years have been operating out of this unit. We now have a custom built roaster from Turkey which is ten times the size of what we had when we first moved here.’
Crosby Coffee produce two blends, Trio Blend and Iron Men Crosby – the first blend Jack created while he was working on his own – along with eight single origins. One coffee changes every month so there’s always something new for customers to try.
‘We get a delivery of a few palettes of beans every month, and we roast each week and ship a few days later. Most of our business is from Liverpool to Southport, but we have some further afield. It ranges from offices to medical centres, but it’s predominately independent cafes and restaurants. We also enjoy collaborating with other independent businesses and so far have created cappuccino candyfloss with the Sugar Tree, a coffee IPA named Run Aground with Maghull based Neptune Brewery and a chocolate bar with Ainsdale Fine Chocolate which we have in our Christmas hampers.’
The hampers include four bags of coffee and a chocolate bar for £25.99 or £35.99 with cafetiere, making it the ideal gift for any coffee lover. Even if you’re not too sure on how to create that perfect cup and want to learn now, Jack and the team are really keen to give that personal service to customers on how to use equipment or recommend coffee blends – something which will become a highlight in the new premises.
‘My favourite aspect about the business is the training element. Whether it’s talking to a member of the public or training up baristas, I love talking about coffee.
‘To some people it may be boring, but it’s the geeky side of it I find interesting. The basement in the new site will be dedicated to training people, whether that’s how to roast or just make a great cup of coffee.’